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Nelson Mandela (on the prison of hate)

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead me to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison…. Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) quotes are flying around in mad electronic flurries, and call me guilty: I haven’t been able to find the source for either of these (possibly connected?) excerpts. I have read them in reputable outlets, but I’d be happy if anyone could inform me about their provenance.

An elder for the world, though he never claimed to be a saint.

For all that, these are worthy, challenging, and even rather witty thoughts. They could have come from many a sainted mouth, though Mandela refused that term “unless by ‘saint’ you mean a sinner who keeps on trying”. The above quotation is deeply Christian, profoundly Buddhist, fundamentally Baha’i. ‘Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921), the long-imprisoned Baha’i leader, exemplar, teacher, “prototype of the new race of men”, once said this: “Freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition….Unless one accepts dire vicissitudes, he will not attain….I was happy all that time in prison. When one is released from the prison of self, that is indeed release….When they put my feet in stocks, I would say to the guard, ‘You cannot imprison me, for here I have light and air and bread and water. There will come a time when my body will be in the ground, and I shall have neither light nor air nor food nor water, but even then I shall not be imprisoned.’ The afflictions which come to humanity sometimes tend to centre the consciousness upon the limitations, and this is a veritable prison. Release comes by making of the will a Door through which the confirmations of the Spirit come…” (Cited in ‘Abdu’l-Baha inpp. 119-121)

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